Drab, dull, stodgy … but the defence was good
By Stephen Webb
Hyundai A-League 2015/16 Season
Friday, 6 November, 7.40 pm
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Sydney FC 0
Brisbane Roar FC 0
Someone in the bus on the way home from this match said soccer was like masturbating without the orgasm.
He was being kind. Sydney and Brisbane didn’t even offer that degree of excitement. From my spot in the stands the home fans were constantly frustrated by Sydney’s teasing, their propensity for crossing half way and then turning back to the keeper. Or, if getting near their opponents’ goal, declining to shoot.
Brisbane, for their part, didn’t even put their hand down their pants. It was apparent early in the second half they weren’t just waiting for the right moment — they had come for a draw.
The coaches blamed each other for being so defensive … and congratulated their own teams for defending so well.
On paper Roar would have been a serious proposition for Sydney. Their team was packed with skill and their scoring record was second only to Melbourne City.
Sydney were without last season’s player of the year Milos Dimitrijevic but saw the return of new star Milos Ninkovic.
“Tonight we’ll get found out,” were the words of warning from a fan seated behind me.
Sydney threatened first, however, with Shane Smeltz collecting a loose ball and shooting to the left corner of Brisbane’s goal. Jamie Young dived to save but it wasn’t a difficult stop.
Sydney had some success with a short passing game, though with little serious penetration, while Brisbane seemed to be taking a while to settle.
In the ninth minute a good ball down the left found Jamie Maclaren, whose cross found only Sydney players. Matt McKay was busy but didn’t see a lot of ball.
Smeltz on a break had his shirt held by Jade North but Sydney’s free kick provided no threat. Smeltz then had some chances to get inside the Roar penalty area, but first stood on the ball and then failed to release in time.
Brisbane weren’t being adventurous. Just pushing away as Sydney probed. Was it a patience game? Or that they weren’t bothering?
In the 19th minute McKay earned a yellow card for taking Alex Brosque’s legs after Brosque had shown him a clean pair of heels. If Sydney weren’t winning it wasn’t because of lack of effort from their skipper.
Five minutes later Sydney had to clear a cross from Shane Stefanutto, supplied down the left by Thomas Broich. Then Sebastian Ryall was awarded a yellow card for fouling Broich.
Sydney fans were already grumbling about their team’s backwardness.
In the 28th minute Rhyan Grant won a corner that Mickael Tavares hit too long.
Brandon O’Neill fouled McKay but Corona also hit his kick too long, though Sydney still conceded a corner.
Milos Ninkovic did some good work on the right, keeping the ball from Broich and winning a throw. O’Neill made a good tackle, chasing back on Brandon Borrello.
Maclaren got some action, taking on Ryall and Jacques Faty and then crossing from the goal line to Vedran Janjetovic.
After half an hour Brisbane — Maclaren, Borrello and Dimitri Petratos — began to look dangerous around Sydney’s penalty area but Sydney won back possession and slowly worked toward Brisbane’s box until Grant gave the ball away.
Borrello fouled Grant on the left sideline and Sydney’s free kick was punched clear by Young.
The beginning of the end for Ninkovic came when Corona cleaned him up with the follow-through of his tackle.
Ninkovic still managed to play a sweet ball to Grant, who passed to Smeltz, who was robbed by Corona.
By half time Sydney’s stats were similar to Brisbane’s, though more of Brisbane’s possession was through the defence — North, Corona and Daniel Bowles. Tavares gave Sydney a slightly more attacking focus.
The highlight of the game to that point (and what was the most memorable moment of the night) was provided by 13-year-old Tarn Feldman-Gubbay, who won $2,000 in a half-time competition by scoring through a hole in a sponsor’s banner.
In the second half Brosque and Ninkovic continued to press Brisbane’s defence when the visitors were in possession. But Ninkovic, soon to be replaced by Andrew Hoole, earned his yellow card cleaning up Corona.
Sydney’s long ball options often failed due to poorly weighted passes skipping through to Young.
In the 54th minute Sydney had the ball in Brisbane’s penalty area but … “They’re all too scared to shoot!”
Hoole contributed some vibrancy to Sydney’s attack and was almost immediately involved, running the ball into the box but pushing it just too wide for Grant to make much use of it.
In the 59th minute Sydney robbed Brisbane to end a good spell of possession and Filip Holosko went on a run. Holosko released to Smeltz who wasted it.
Sydney kept up the pressure until Broich was judged to have fouled Ryall. After Hoole’s free kick from the right the ball ended up on the left. When it was sent back into the box, Young damaged Brosque attempting to punch clear.
Brosque was getting battered and a bit fed up. He spoiled a Sydney attack and then copped a yellow card for fouling McKay. Corona’s free kick went straight to Janjetovic.
A slip by Jack Hingert let Brosque have a free run at goal. His shot from the left toward the right post was easily saved by the diving Young.
The slippery surface had been a problem for both teams. Hoole had particular trouble trying to make his first step attempting to accelerate past Brisbane opponents.
A diving tackle by Grant stopped a shot by Maclaren. Brisbane won two corners, taken by Corona, that Sydney cleared.
A foul on Maclaren gave Brisbane a free kick 30 metres out, in front of goal. Nothing came of that but Brisbane soon had another kick from nearly the same spot. This time Corona put it wide of goal.
A Sydney free kick from the left, taken well by Hoole, sailed through the box untouched. Matthew Jurman realised too late he had a good chance.
With full time approaching Sydney created and wasted a few more opportunities. In the 85th minute Grant shot high on a rebound from a Hoole shot, with Brosque expecting a pass into the box.
In the 89th minute Stefanutto was shown the yellow card for tripping Grant breaking down the right.
Sydney then seemed to have a good chance on a cross from Grant but the flag was up for offside.
One of Brisbane’s best chances then came to Bowles, who couldn’t get an effective angle with a header following a Corona free kick.
The game was over for Sydney when another attack was spoiled with Holosko being ruled offside.
Brisbane had got what they came for. Which meant 12,800 other people in the stadium didn’t.
The mood in the bus on the way home was as if Sydney has lost another in a series of home losses, when in fact they were undefeated and still on top of the table.
1. Vedran Janjetovic, 2. Seb Ryall (3. Alex Gersbach 66’), 5. Matt Jurman, 9. Shane Smeltz (18. Matt Simon 73’), 10. Milos Ninkovic (7. Andrew Hoole 54’), 13. Brandon O’Neill, 14. Alex Brosque, 19. Jacques Faty, 21. Filip Holosko, 23. Rhyan Grant, 27. Mickael Tavares.
Subs not used: 20. Ivan Necevski, 24. George Blackwood.
Yellow cards: Ryall 24’, Ninkovic 49’, Brosque 64’.
Red cards: None.
21. Jamie Young, 3. Shane Stefanutto, 7. Corona, 9. Jamie Maclaren (12. Jean Carlos Solorzano 74’) (16. Devante Clut 83’), 13. Jade North, 14. Daniel Bowles, 17. Matt McKay (C), 19. Jack Hingert, 22. Thomas Broich, 23. Dimitri Petratos (8. Steven Lustica 64’), 28. Brandon Borrello.
Subs not used: 36. Andre Jannese, 15. James Donachie.
Yellow Cards: McKay 19’, Stefanutto 89’.
Red cards: None.
Referee: Strebre Delovski
Assistant Referees: Ryan Gallagher and James Tesoriero
Fourth Official: Luke Withell
Pitch: (wet) 5/10
3. Corona (Brisbane)
2. Bowles (Brisbane)
1. Brosque (Sydney)
Report and photographs by Stephen Webb